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Fertility yoga is a brilliant way to de-stress and may even help you get pregnant. We've spoken to the experts to find out how, why and who it works for...
Fertility yoga may be for you if you’re currently trying to conceive and looking to boost your fertility, or want to prepare your body for a future pregnancy.
The stress-relieving properties of fertility yoga are thought to have helped many women fall pregnant. Stress has a huge impact on your ability to conceive, and yoga is proven to be an effective form of relaxation.
By regularly practising yoga with moves that bring specific benefits, you may experience more success when trying for a baby (opens in new tab).
Can yoga increase fertility?
Fertility yoga is a series of yoga poses that promote relaxation. It also encourages blood flow to the hips, and increases circulation and connection to the pelvic area, abdomen and heart.
"It is a gentle yoga practice that incorporates breathing, visualisation, positive affirmation and asana (poses)," says Cherie Lathey, director of Yoga Mama (opens in new tab).
The focus of fertility yoga is to help you cope with stress, but why is this so important why trying to conceive? "When we’re stressed, the adrenal glands pump stress hormones such as adrenaline into the bloodstream," explains Cheryl MacDonald, founder of YogaBellies.
The YogaBellies for Fertility 8 week course (opens in new tab) focuses on stress management, nutrition, relaxation, fertility support and the power of positivity. This can deny the uterus and ovaries of the rich blood blow and oxygen they need to optimally function and therefore negatively impacts our ability to become pregnant."
How yoga can help with conception
There is evidence to back up the positive link between yoga and fertility. Research by Dr Alice Domar, at the Mind/Body Institute at Harvard Medical School, looked at a group of women who had been unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant for a year. Those who practiced mind/body techniques achieved pregnancies at a rate of almost three times greater than those who didn’t.
"This is because yoga therapies benefit reproductive functions, both in men and women by improving the overall physiological systems," explains Cheryl. "This then modulates the neuroendocrine axis to reduce stress and regulate the neurohormonal profile."
Another US study found that just six weeks of yoga dramatically lowered the anxiety levels for the women who participated and were undergoing IVF.
However, Cherie stresses: "It is important not to make claims that fertility yoga guarantees a couple will fall pregnant. Rather that it is a way of doing yoga that fosters a nurturing sense of self-care to help soothe the surges in the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline."
Benefits of fertility yoga
In addition to the stress-relieving benefits that aid conception, these are the ways that fertility yoga helps overall health and wellbeing:
- Strengthens and tones the body
- Boosts blood flow to the uterus and ovaries
- Reduces inflammation in the body
- Helps better breathing
- Increases flexibility
- Balances metabolism
- Increases libido
- Reduces low mood
- Makes you feel more in control
Carving out me-time can prove difficult when juggling a busy lifestyle, but it’s something you should try to do.
"It’s absolutely imperative to nourish emotional and mental health when trying to conceive. Fertility yoga gives you the time and space to do this," says Cheryl.
Fertility struggles can often be physically, emotionally and financially demanding. Yoga is a practical and positive self-care tool that you can use during this time.
Zita West (opens in new tab), a leading fertility expert also explains: "Any exercise that involves mindfulness, breathing techniques and meditative visualisation has many physical, emotional and mental benefits. Yoga is a calming antidote to any woman consumed by an overwhelming desire for a baby. The resulting stress of which becomes an impediment to conception itself."
What type of yoga is best for fertility?
There are many styles of yoga that include different sequences practiced at different paces and varying levels of intensity.
Hatha, Iyengar, Yin or Restorative yoga are gentle practices that are good for beginners and can be beneficial when trying to conceive.
"Fertility yoga might be a gentle flowing sequence. This will include poses that encourage blood flow to the uterus, hips, heart, and other abdominal organs. It may include poses such as bridge, light twists, and legs up the wall. Cat/ cow, hip rotations, cobblers, supported goddess pose, to name but a few," says Cherie.
"Meditations and specific breathing techniques (pranayama) are used during certain yoga sequences. These help to balance complex emotions, improve sleep and increase feelings of self-compassion," adds Cheryl.
There are also yoga classes designed to aid those who are undergoing IVF treatment with different moves for each of the different stages.
You may decide to refrain from more vigorous types of yoga such as Ashtanga and Vinyasa. Hot yoga should be avoided while trying to conceive or if you're pregnant, due to the 40°C studio temperature that may pose a risk.
What other exercises increase fertility?
It’s not just yoga that is beneficial for fertility, these low-impact ways to work out can help you stay fit and healthy in preparation for pregnancy.
- Walking A gentle way to help beat stress and build endurance.
- Dancing This feel-good way of moving can improve blood flow.
- Pilates Helps to tone the body and offers relaxation benefits similar to yoga.
- Swimming A weight-bearing cardio exercise that’s easy on the body.
Is it ok to work out if you are trying to get pregnant?
Exercise is important for women during every life stage including the time when you’re trying to conceive. "It’s a great idea to maintain a clean and healthy body if you want to get pregnant and yoga is a fantastic, low-impact way to support this," says Cheryl.
Some women may choose to avoid vigorous exercise when trying to get pregnant. However, many women will not be negatively affected by high-intensity workouts if they have a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) and are used to this level of exercise.
For a few women, intense physical activity can put stress upon the body and affect the hormones that control the menstrual cycle.
Get plenty of rest alongside exercise. Maintaining a healthy diet with sufficient calorie intake will also replenish the energy burned when working out. Talk to your GP if you haven’t conceived after a year of trying, or if you are not having regular periods.
Yoga positions that can boost your fertility
Emma Robinson (opens in new tab) is an experienced yoga teacher and osteopath. She suggests these yoga positions if you’re trying to relax and prep your body for conception. The benefits go beyond boosting your fertility too. According to Emma, regular practice can help your body during the pregnancy, during labour and post-birth it can help with your recovery.
Bounded angle pose (Baddha Konasana)
- Begin seated with a straight spine, bring your heels into the body and press the soles of your feet together.
- Allow your knees to drop open as far as they can without forcing them.
- Hole onto your big toes, and extend through the length of your spine.
Cat stretch (Marjaryasana)
- Start on all-fours, with your knees aligned below your hips and your wrists underneath your shoulders.
- Inhale and hold your gaze forward.
- Drop your head, tuck your chin to your chest and exhale – rounding your spine and drawing in your navel.
- Hold for a few seconds before returning to an all-fours position.
Cow stretch (Bitilasana)
- Adopt the all-fours position with knees aligned below your hips and your wrists underneath the shoulders.
- Inhale, letting your belly sink towards the floor while lifting your bottom towards the ceiling. Hold your gaze forward.
- Exhale and return to the all-fours position.
- This pose is often alternated with the cat stretch for a gentle flow.
- Begin by lying face down on your mat with your feet hip-width apart and your hands placed on the mat by your ribs.
- Press down with your hands, raise your head and open and lift your chest upwards, rolling your shoulders down.
- Take your gaze upwards, hold and then slowly release back down to the mat.
Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Begin on your hands and knees with your wrists in line with your shoulders.
- Exhale and push your hips up and backwards towards the ceiling, while straightening your arms.
- Lift up through your knees, engage your core, and drop your shoulders away from your ears.
- Sink your heels downwards – pedalling your feet back and forwards, or bending the knees slightly if you feel tightness.
Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II)
- Begin by standing with your heels slightly apart, with the base of your big toes touching.
- Exhale and step out to the side with one foot.
- Raise your arms parallel to the floor with the palms faced down.
- Point your front foot towards the top of the mat and the back foot at a 45 degree angle.
- Gaze straight ahead and sink down the front thigh so it’s parallel to the floor. Anchor by pressing the heel of your back foot into the floor.
- Stretch your arms away from your shoulder blades.
- Inhale, step to the front of your mat and repeat on the other side.
- Lie on your back, close your eyes and rest your arms at your sides with your palms facing upwards.
- Drop your feet open and let your body sink into the mat.
- Scan your body, releasing any tension and allowing your breath to come naturally.
- Stay in position for five minutes before bringing awareness back into the body and moving gently into a seated position.
Fertility yoga buys:
Gaiam Premium Yoga Mat, from £27.78
This is the go-to brand for lightweight, extra-cushioned, non-slip yoga mats in a choice of eye-catching designs.
Alaman Yoga Knee Pads, £13.95
These foam-like cushions give support and comfort for your knees, hands, head or elbows during practice.
Yogamatters Cork Yoga Block, £14
A natural-material yoga block that can help with stability and balance during poses.
Yoga and Fertility: A Journey to Health and Healing, £20.50
A helpful guide that includes simple yoga, breathing and meditation practices to reduce the stress involved in fertility challenges.
Senior writer Ali Horsfall has almost 15 years of experience as a journalist and has written for national print titles and women’s lifestyle brands including Woman & Home, Woman, Woman's Own, BBC magazines, Mothercare, Grazia and The Independent.
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